Sentencing/Post Conviction

US Sentencing Commission Proposes New Guidelines, Many in Response to Dodd-Frank

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has proposed several new amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines.

The proposed amendments, promulgated Friday, cover securities fraud, mortgage fraud, human rights offenses, drug offenses, contraband cellphones in prison, cigarette offenses, trafficking in fake Indian goods and animal crush videos.

The commission must submit its proposed guideline amendments to Congress by May 1. Congress will have 180 days to act on the proposals, which will take effect Nov. 1 unless Congress votes to modify or disapprove them.

Commission Chair Patti B. Saris said in a statement (PDF) that many of the amendments are a response to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which directed the commission to review the fraud guidelines with respect to securities fraud, fraud on financial institutions and mortgage fraud.

“The commission’s action today increases penalties for insider trading cases and ensures that no defendant will receive a reduced penalty because of a federal intervention, such as a bailout,” she said.

The commission also promulgated amendments to the guidelines to cover substantive human rights violations, including new enhancements that would apply to a defendant convicted of committing a serious human rights violation, including genocide, torture, war crimes and the use or recruitment of child soldiers.

Another proposed amendment would address the growing number of federal drug cases involving the stimulant BZP, which is used alone and in combination with other chemicals to produce effects that mimic those of the drug known as Ecstasy The amendment would add BZP to the list of chemicals covered by the guidelines in a manner consistent with available scientific literature.

The commission also resolved a circuit conflict by confirming that for purposes of calculating a defendant’s criminal history under the guidelines, driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence and similar offenses are, without exception, always counted.

More information on the proposed amendments may be found on the commission’s website.

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